20 August 2018

Loch Garman by James L. Nelson

Shortlisted for Book of the Month


#7 in the Norseman Saga

Fictional Saga / Nautical
9th Century
Ireland

Thorgrim Night Wolf has one desire – to return home to Norway – but again the gods demonstrate that the time has not yet arrived. Such is definitely the case in this seventh book in The Norsemen Saga, for he and his men have but three damaged longboats with no sails. Rather than fight and pillage to gain what they need, Thorgrim barters with the Irish. His decision is of no import to Starri Deathless, the berserker, “[b]cause every time you say such a thing, there ends up being more fighting than a man could wish for, so I’m not concerned.”

Treasure attracts more than the heathens who plague Ireland. One among the many rĂ­ tuath wishes to gain the rumored Treasure of St. Aiden for himself, which is why Airtre mac Domhnall and a hundred men have gathered outside the gates of the monastery at Ferns. Failure to return home without it will just result in censure from his wife, and Airtre would much rather confront an army of Northmen than face her empty-handed. But Abbot Column denies that such a treasure exists, for he will protect the secret of Ferns any way he can. He succeeds in thwarting Airtre this time, but knows his success is temporary. Sooner or later Airtre will return.

While some of the Northmen begin repairing the ships and setting up a temporary camp on the shores of Loch Garman, Thorgrim sends his son to retrieve two longships he lent to the enslaved Irish who had been helped to freedom, but things do not go as planned.

Loch Garman is an excellent example of circumstances making strange bedfellows, for such are rife throughout this wonderful tale. While the majority of it takes place on land, there are a few river scenes. Subtle shifts begin to emerge in relations between the Irish and Northmen that will eventually lead to a more peaceful coexistence. There is plenty of action as Starri foretells, but this intricately woven tapestry is far more than just adventure. It also showcases how warriors think, gauge their opponents, understand potential trickery before it unfolds, and find ways to counteract overwhelming odds to prevail without losing sight of the original goal. Nelson possesses the gift of a true storyteller; his words easily spin visual pictures in our minds without inserting passages that allow us to stray from unfolding events.

There are elements within this book – perhaps the best offering in the series so far – that readers will identify with no matter their age. For me, these include sly touches of dry humor, the rationalizing of internal conflicts, and the wisdom and frailties that come with getting older. Regardless of what attracts you, you will not be disappointed. From the opening confrontation to the heart-stopping climax, Loch Garman is a riveting tale that brings to life a bygone era of Irish history.

© Cindy Vallar


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